- Nietzsche’s first book, The Birth of Tragedy is a good starting point for reader’s who wants to read the philosopher’s original work. It’s short, it’s inspired, and it gives the reader a sense of what ideas preoccupied the young professor’s mind.
In this article and book review you will get a very short summary of The Birth of Tragedy along with learnings from the book. I’ll keep it short and sweet!
A Birth of Tragedy in 7 sentences:
- 1. Nietzsche is 24 y/o when he become professor in philology.
- 2. In 1872 he writes his first great book on dramatic theory; The Birth of Tragedy.
- 3. He found an art form in the classic Athenian Tragedy that transcended the nihilism and horror of a meaningless world.
- 4. What he found was an opposition between Dionysian and Apollonian forces; Chaos, Intoxication, Music vs. Order, Self-control and Sculpture.
- 5. The tragedy balanced these forces and allowed the spectator to experience in fullness the human condition.
- 6. The end of tragedy came with Socrates, through Euripides, who Nietzsche thought ruined the Dionysian/Apollonian balance in tragedy with reason and logic.
- 7. Nietzsche found new hope in Wagner’s music as a way to re-establish the balance between the Dionysian and Apollonian in modern art; a possible rebirth of tragedy.
3 Notes from The Birth of Tragedy:
- 1. Beautiful works of art compensates for the horror of existence.
2. Aesthetic Arrest: Freedom from the Will in experiencing a great work of art. The only time except Nirvana or Samadhi where man can be free from the Will. (Schopenhauer)
3. Is dancing and shouting in a drunken madness to “Killing in the name of” a form of modern Dionysian phenomena?
I got through a book that is ‘out of my league’ and came out on the other side with new-found confidence in my ability to read philosophy straight from the sources. You might do the same. The Birth of Tragedy is a great starting point for reading Nietzsche.
I got a lot value from this book, both as an introduction to Nietzsche, and to the concept Dionysian/Apollonian opposition. But If you’re unsure if you could stand 129 pages of analysis of Ancient Greek theatre and art theory then you think you should pass on this one.